It’s funny I often refer to my first LEGO 9v train set (4563) as being the start of my LEGO Journey. However, that isn’t strictly true and in reality it started a lot younger when my Great Grandmother gifted me my first LEGO Fabuland set at the age of 3 (I skipped Duplo). Finding this out has been a bit of an epiphany for me with my mum helping me to piece together fragmented memories and the strong emotions attached to my late Great Grandmother and an early childhood love of Fabuland.
Now before I get stuck into my vintage review of my first Fabuland set I thought it was worth shedding some light on the history of Fabuland. LEGO launched Fabuland in 1979 with the purpose of bridging the gap between Duplo and LEGO. With 3-7 year olds in mind the theme was based around a friendly world containing human like figures with animal heads.
What’s really interesting is LEGO used Fabuland as a bit of testing bed to perfect its marketing, but while also enhancing role playing. Fabuland was the first LEGO theme to expand beyond the brick offering and utilize licensed products such as memory cards, story books, cutlery, tableware, clothing and an animated TV series – Edward and Friends. Fabuland also gave all the little characters a name and a base story (covered in set building instructions) giving parents a great opportunity to get involved with the storytelling.
As mentioned previously Fabuland was geared as an introduction to LEGO post Duplo. To assist with this transition Fabuland was designed to be compatible with LEGO System bricks, but still kept an element of the oversized Duplo feeling and ease of construction.
Still to this date Fabuland is one of the most successful and long lived LEGO themes (minus the core themes such as City). Fabuland ran for a decade from 1979-1989 and now nearly 30 years after its retirement has a pretty big cult following with sets fetching a fairly hefty price on ebay, bricklink and other sites!
Now time to move on to the review and my first ever LEGO set – Fabuland Country Cottage 3654.
LEGO Fabuland Country Cottage 3654 is one of the smaller sets in the range capturing Lucy Lamb’s little country cottage.
The box base colour is a pleasant pale green and was used for the entire Fabuland theme packaging. The graphics depict the set in all it’s primary colour glory and offers a basic storyboard on the reverse showing alternative builds.
Sorry but I can’t help but drool over the flip top box, it really does make you feel you have a quality product all nicely presented in the molded tray under the lid. I know I sound like a broken record, but I really hope LEGO considers this packaging again one day soon!
Moving on – the box contains some large Fabuland molded walls, door, roof slates, table, chair, 1 x Lucy Lamb Fabuland figure, various traditional LEGO System bricks and a green base plate. In total 33 pieces and originally retailed at GBP £9.99 back in 1982.
The instruction booklet doubles up as a story book showcasing Lucy Lambs everyday life while also showing how to build her cute little cottage. I would be more descriptive on the story, but the instructions are in German! One nice touch that I like with Fabuland is the cartoon nature of the instructions, as it enhances the feeling of being part of a story and not just instructions to build something.
Hello my name is Lucy Lamb what to be my friend? Next up is the star of the show Lucy Lamb one of the unique figures designed for the Fabuland theme. Each foot is designed to connect to 2 x LEGO studs and are fully pivoted along with the arms. Lucy’s head is that of a sheep and she has a really nice and friendly expressional face (unusual for standard LEGO minifigures in this era). As far as I’m aware no parts can be disconnected – I was scared to verify this point though!
As a bit of a size comparison I put Lucy in between a modern Duplo figure and LEGO minifigure.
One of the more interesting pieces designed specifically for Fabuland is the roof slate. This piece was a late edition and didn’t appear in Fabuland for the first few years instead favoring 2×4 brick for constructing roofs. This changed in 1982 when LEGO designed an oversized roof slate to simplify the roof construction and add further distinction to the Fabuland theme. It’s a clever design and I love the detail on the roof slates/tiles.
Continuing on the Fabuland specific pieces we also have the molded wall/window and door elements. Again the good thing about these elements is the detail that is included while also simplifying the build thus targeting the age group. I also love the inside detail on the wall/window that includes a window shelf. Just goes to highlight LEGO thought about the playability by looking at inside detail and promoting the role play inside and out.
The table (with umbrella) and chair finishes off the Fabuland specific elements. The chair allows Fabuland figures to sit on the two studs and the chair can be rotated on its connection to the base plate (without the need for an additional swivel element).
One thing I’ve always thought was the umbrella was unique to Fabuland. However, I was quite clearly wrong! By comparing the umbrella from the recent LEGO Pizza Van (60150) you can see while slightly different with the top stud the Fabuland umbrella legacy quite clearly lives on in this newer modernised mold!
Full construction takes less than 5 minutes, but the final build is very cute and I can see and feel (deep rooted memories and emotions) why Fabuland was so successful. The set is finished off with two stickers – number 54 and a lucky horse shoe. In case Lucy gets bored she also has a nice generous selection of flowers and garden rack to help keep the cottage garden in check.
I have to say overall I think the Fabuland theme is wonderful and a joy to build. I also have to bear in mind that my score rating has to reflect the target age group. I.e. A high score doesn’t mean it’s the same as the Disney Castle, but that it hits all the right pointers for 3-7 year olds.
Interestingly I tested this set on my 3 children here was the reaction:
- 5 year old – That’s not LEGO! It’s boring
- 3 year old – Dad can I have my LEGO Batman please!
- 2 year old – Loved it and played with it for a good 45 mins before trying to grab her brother’s Batman minifigures.
Based on the above (other than having LEGO spoilt kids!) I think the target age group leans more towards Duplo age and would say Fabuland wouldn’t appeal much beyond 4-5 year olds with modern kids
Final Rating: 7 out of 10 (10 out of 10 – Nostalgia factor)